Utah's light rail system is among the worst in accidents and deaths across the nation. The UTA has stepped in with a pervasive safety campaign, fines, and a system-wide revamp. But will people pay attention?
Shariah Casper was having a great day.
The ice cream on her shirt from the impromptu food fight between her and her cousin Acacia Karr was starting to dry, but the overcast skies brought a welcome coolness to the June air as the 15 year olds made their way back from Macey’s grocery to clean up at Shariah’s West Jordan home. They laughed, joked and talked about the evening’s baseball game as they approached the light-rail crossing at 3200 West and 8600 South. The safety arms were down and lights flashed warnings of an oncoming TRAX train. Shariah watched as an eastbound train whipped past, then stepped forward onto the tracks, leaving no time to react before a westbound train slammed into her petite frame.
Acacia screamed for Shariah not to go, but it was too late. She watched her cousin’s limp body fly through the air, hit a street sign and then the ground. “I tried to save her but it came so fast,” Karr told the Salt Lake Tribune. “It was like a blink of an eye before it hit her, and when she went flying, it went in slow motion... She slipped through my fingers.”
Nearly 20 police officers descended on the gruesome scene, spending hours taking photos of Shariah’s battered body and blood splattered on the rails and collecting the teenager’s scattered belongings: the Airwalk sneaker thrown from her right foot, sunglasses, a broken pink cell phone cover, a keyring bracelet and a small, plastic black and pink star.
Friends and family gathered at the intersection the next day, remembering the girl who loved to play softball and dreamed of becoming a trauma doctor. They brought flowers and stuffed animals and scribbled notes on poster board hung near the spot where Shariah took her last step. “RIP,” one friend wrote. “You will be missed dearly.”